Early in 2016, Netcel, an award-winning independent digital consultancy, approached Age UK, the UK's largest charity dedicated to helping everyone to make the most of later life, and Superla.tv, a video production company, to collaborate on an ideas generation hack day to explore ways of using social technologies to meet specific support needs of older people.
The objective was to develop creative technology-based solutions in response to three real-world challenges faced by Age UK and their target audiences, namely the over-60s – the UK's fastest growing age group, and their carers. The challenges:
- Loneliness among older people
- Peer-to-peer support for older people and their carers
- Delivering better personalisation within existing services
The project sought to advance and develop participant's soft skills in such areas as creative problem solving, team working, presenting information and exploring new and existing technologies.
The pro-bono initiative sought to leverage Netcel and Superla's creative, technical, and strategic expertise via an extraordinary collaborative format to develop a range of ideas unlikely to surface within Age UK's usual internal or external forums.
The goal was to provide Age UK with three credible ideas that delivered on some or all of the challenges, which could later be developed and refined into sustainable support services for older people nationwide.
The partnership forged stronger business partnerships, demonstrated valuable corporate social responsibility and increased employee engagement in an increasingly important community issue.
Netcel's entire team of consultants (36) support staff and board directors were involved in the hack day, together with two senior volunteers from Superla.tv, and Age UK's Digital Programme Manager.
Participants were divided into three teams, and given a detailed briefing by Age UK to explain both the background around our aging UK population but also further insight into the three campaign issues chosen for consideration: loneliness, peer-to-peer support or personalisation.
There are currently 15 million over 60s (23% of the population) in the UK, which will rise to an estimated 21 million (29%) by 2035. Of these, almost 3 million suffer from loneliness as well as resulting health and well-being issues. On top of this over 2 million carers and 1.8 million self-helpers require additional support and advice on ageing matters.
Once participants understood the background and scale of the issues the three teams returned to their dedicated areas to brainstorm ideas and solutions. Teams were required to research and productize their idea offering up clear and measurable benefits, communicated via a 20 minute presentation to pitch their idea to Age UK for immediate critique and for future consideration by senior stakeholders at the charity. A winner would be chosen to offer an added team incentive (plus a trophy!).
Each team was led by a project manager, used to managing complex and time-pressured projects, and tasked to coordinate the main task areas – idea, R&D, presentation preparation and delivery. Teams were free to choose tools and technology options to produce their final idea and presentation.
The presentations were then delivered in a BBC Dragon's Den-style format – thus resembling 'the budding entrepreneurs [who] get 3-minutes to pitch their business ideas to five multi-millionaires willing to invest their own cash' (Reference: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006vq92).
Collaboration was key, so Age UK provided input on questions regarding each central issue, Age UK's audience behaviours etc. Superla.tv offered up valuable expertise and knowledge regarding emerging video technology including Virtual Reality and 360°, in addition to filming the whole day.
This project was unique as it focused in on the idea rather than trying to 'hack' or deliver a fully-fledged solution. It sought to get teams to think outside of usual parameters and with an open mind to future possibilities - the ageing population ranges from 60 to 100+ and as numbers grow, so shall the technical skill of those moving into this demographic. As such, social technology and platforms will provide exciting new opportunities to support older people and their carers' in future.
This pro bono initiative sought to provide a starting point for envisaging the shape of future needs and support services for older people. The event was publicised by means of a commemorative video that was distributed via the social and digital channels of all three organisations.
The Hack Day is an annual event for which Netcel seeks new annual charity partners.
The project furnished Age UK with three valuable and ultimately attainable ideas.
One solution addressed all three issues together, through delivery of a nationwide, comprehensive social engagement platform. This would offer access to offline events, real-time virtual events via VR, interaction via social feeds and peer-to-peer support forums, as well as topic based live chat via rabb.it etc. This would be sustained by viable cost-effective support from local government and arts/leisure partnerships to deliver a real-time support network for older people.
Another idea advocated the creation of an Uber-style app-based community (Vuba) centred around matching lift-requirements with volunteer lift-giving to events, shops, hospital appointments. Thereby combatting loneliness by enabling online introductions and discussion between people with similar interests/needs which would translate to offline meet-ups.
The winning idea again focused on combatting loneliness through the use of local corporate participation, where companies would sponsor/run events through virtual and physical means, keeping older people informed via a bespoke Age UK social platform.
The result was Age UK received valuable consultancy time focused on tackling their specific challenges through innovative use of tech amounting to c.£27,500 from Netcel and £3,000 from Superla.tv.
As Age UK stated, "Initiatives like this that think 'outside of the box' are a vital source of material for charities. We will re-examine all these ideas, which have helped us to diversify our thinking on how we tackle older people issues in new ways in future".
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